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Full text of "A pioneer one-variety cotton community in Collin County, Tex."

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Department &J§z^^ 


By R. F. Saunders, agent, Division of Cotton, Rubber, and Other Tropical Plants, 
Bureau of Plant Industry 



Introduction 1 

Conditions prior to 1923 2 

Need for improvement in production recog- 
nized 2 

Efforts to adopt a single variety 3 

Variety tests 3 

Field meetings 4 

A gin-unit community organized 5 


Efforts to adopt a single variety— Continued. 
Organization by farmers of a standardiza- 
tion association 5 

Cooperation of ginners necessary :__ 6 

Difficulties in marketing 6 

Importance of community leadership 8 

Summary ._ - 10 


In 1923 a pioneer effort was begun in Collin County, Tex., for im- 
proving the production of cotton by raising only a single variety. 
The undertaking was continued for several years and received a large 
measure of popular interest and support. Notable progress was made, 
so that the advantages of a standardized production of a single variety 
of cotton were clearly shown and were generally recognized by the 
farmers. Later, difficulties in marketing were encountered which kept 
the improved system of production from becoming definitely estab- 
lished, but it is believed that the experience of the undertaking may 
be of practical use in the development of one-variety communities in 
the future. 

More obstacles may have appeared because the entire county was 
included in the project than would have been encountered if the be- 
ginning had been made with a smaller community. However, a 
knowledge of the different kinds of obstacles that are likely to arise 
in the development of community organizations is desirable. The 
drawbacks and handicaps that individual farmers have had to struggle 
against in attempting to improve their crops of cotton are not 
fully understood or appreciated until an effort is made to establish a 
different system. 

The undertaking in Collin County surmounted all of the early 
obstacles to the point of completely demonstrating that the production 
and quality of the cotton could be greatly improved by standardizing 
on the basis of a single variety. Through the splendid cooperation 
and interest of everyone concerned it seemed certain that a complete 
success could be made of the undertaking, since the farmers were able 
to sell their cotton through the community association at an advance of 
$2 to $5 per bale. However, as a result of this advance in price much 

6523°— 33 


cotton of inferior quality was sent in from the surrounding districts. 
This influx of poor cotton injured the reputation of the community 
cotton to such an extent that it lost the advantage it had previously 
enjoyed in the local market. Separate marketing of the good com- 
munity cotton was then attempted, but the formation of a local 
marketing association was opposed. The financial support of the 
community undertaking was withdrawn, and the price advantages 
were lost, together with the outside business that the improvement 
effort had attracted. The decline began in 1930, and by 1931 the 
compress receipts had fallen back below the level of 1925. 

The temporary success and ultimate failure of this improvement 
undertaking, with the attending circumstances, are described in this 


Collin County is situated in the black-land district of northern Texas 
and has long been considered one of the leading cotton-producing 
counties of the State. The area in cotton averages about 250,000 
acres, with an average production of one-fourth bale or more per acre. 
The county was recognized as a leader in the use of good seed, which 
was being sold by local ginners, bankers, and farmers, as well as by 
itinerant seed salesmen. However, prior to 1923, no attention had 
been given to the need of standardizing the crop by holding to one 
variety, as a means of keeping the seed pure and the lint uniform. A 
leading ginner in the county was selling 10 different varieties of cotton- 
seed to his customers for planting purposes, in an effort to supply any 
variety that a customer wanted. Each farmer was advised to plant 
at least two varieties, on the theory that his chances of crop failure 
would be lessened by such a practice. Many seed sellers represented 
their special variety to the farmers as superior to any other on the 

The outlay for good seed had no general effect of improvement in 
the absence of any adequate precautions for keeping the many varie- 
ties from being mixed at the gins. Farmers often tried to protect the 
purity of their seed at the gin by bringing two bales of cotton at a 
time, allowing the seed of the first bale to go to the seed house, and 
catching the seed of the second bale for planting. In many instances 
the farmer would bring only one bale and would let the first portion of 
seed go to the seed house and catch the remainder for planting pur- 
poses. This practice has long been known to be entirely inadequate 
as a means of preserving the purity of seed stock s. 1 2 


Although a large percentage of the cotton acreage in Collin County 
was being planted to pure seed each year, large lots of even-running 
bales were not being produced. This was because many different 
varieties were being planted, and no concerted effort was made to 
keep them separate either in the field or at the gin. 

There was not a single stock of pure seed in Texas that would 
plant the entire acreage of Collin County. In fact, the county was 
planting each year as much seed as all the reputable seed breeders in 

• Saunders. D. A., and Cardox, P. V. custom ginning as a factor ix cottox-seed deterioratiox. 
U.S. Dept. Agr. Bui. 2sS. S p., illus. 1915. 

- Ballard, W. W.. and Doyle. C. B. cottox-seed mixing ixcreased by moderx gix equipment. 
U.S. Dept. Agr. Circ. 205, 12 p., illus. 1922. 


Texas were producing, and it became evident to some of the leading 
growers that the limited supply of pure seed must be increased locally 
if the pure-seed program were to become effective. The formation 
of a one-variety community appeared to be the only logical way to 
achieve this end. The immediate objective was to make available 
to the farmers of Collin County an adequate supply of pure seed of a 
single variety; the ultimate objective was better and more uniform 
cotton in commercial quantities. 


It was recognized that one of the first problems in establishing a 
one-variety community would be to get the farmers united on one 
variety of cotton. In order to do this it was necessary to correct 

Figure 1. — The first one-variety cotton meeting in Collin County, Tex., August 11, 1923. 

certain misinformation that had been supplied to farmers by well- 
meaning friends or by seed salesmen seeking to make a sale and 
collect a commission. This was undertaken by means of local variety 
tests. Eight popular varieties of cotton were planted in as many 
widely separated communities. Reputable farmers were selected to 
plant the test plots. The varieties were planted by numbers, and the 
key to the tests was retained until results were complete. The prin- 
cipal accomplishment of this test was to demonstrate to the farmers 
the difficulty in distinguishing one of the " varieties" from another 
when planted in adjoining rows. 

The county agricultural agent called a cotton-field meeting in 
August 1923, and a selected group of farmers, ginners, and bankers 
attended (fig. 1). The purpose of the gathering was to study the 
variety tests. Less than 5 percent of the growers were able to dis- 
tinguish their favorite variety from the eight included in the tests. 
The cottonseed salesmen present on the occasion experienced the same 
difficulty, much to the amusement of the growers. 


A locally bred variety with 1 to 1 ^-inch staple led in lint production 
per acre in 7 of the 8 tests. Since this variety had a low lint per- 
centage, it afforded a good demonstration that varieties with low lint 
percentage are not necessarily low producers of lint per acre, as has 
been generally accepted by proponents of varieties with high gin 


So much interest was manifested in the 1923 field meeting that it 
was made an annual affair. The first meetings were confined to 
selected groups of farmers and business men from widely scattered 
sections of the county. The programs included talks by members of 
the staff of the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College and the 
State agricultural experiment station, and by cotton spinners. 
Motion pictures, visits to cotton mills, cotton gins, and cotton fields 

Figure 2.— Farmers studying cotton in the field. A feature of each annual meeting in Collin County was 
a supervised field study of one-variety cotton projects. 

were also included in the programs. The most interesting and bene- 
ficial part of the programs was the meeting of farmers, spinners, 
business men, educators, and research men in the cotton field (fig. 2). 
Most of the meetings were attended by the superintendent or other 
members of the staff of the United States Cotton-Breeding Field 
Station at Greenville, Tex. 

The first meeting, held in 1923, was attended by 50 farmers and 
business men. This number grew with each succeeding meeting 
until in 1928 750 farmers attended (fig. 3). The one thing that was 
unanimously agreed upon at these meetings was that only one variety 
of cotton should be grown in the community. Differences of opinion, 
however, as to the best variety to grow presented a serious obstacle, 
largely because the growers had been confused by promoters of the 
different varieties, many of which had never been tested. 



The first organization of a single-variety cotton community in 
Collin County was formed by farmers around the Lucas gin in 1924. 
Approximately 3,000 acres were planted with seed of the Sunshine 
variety, and the cotton was ginned exclusively by the Lucas Gin Co. 
There was no organized effort to sell planting seed, and each farmer 
disposed of his seed as he wished. This resulted in most of the seed 
being sold locally. 

The movement was extended by making arrangements with ginners 
in other communities to set aside special days for ginning Sunshine 
cotton. This made large quantities of pure seed available in several 
districts at low cost to the farmers. 




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■v ?C : 

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Figure 3.— A group of 750 growers, interested in one-variety production, attending the meeting in Collin 
County, Tex., in 1928. A gin for one-variety cotton is shown in the background. Community adjust- 
ments of ginning are necessary to avoid mixing the seed. 


The farmers, believing that there was an excessive amount of preju- 
dice and confusion among the growers of cotton in Collin County 
relative to the best variety of cotton to plant, decided at the 1927 
field meeting to form an organization to be known as the Collin 
County Standardization Association. The 300 farmers attending 
the meeting became charter members. The object of the association 
was to promote one-variety production of cotton. 

Growers present at the meeting agreed that every attempt to 
standardize a community on one-variety production was complicated 
by the multitude of salesmen who flocked in to sell seed. When the 
salesmen finished criticizing each other's product, the community 
was so confused and provoked that nothing was accomplished. It 
was the opinion of members of this organization that if the farmers of 
a community were permitted to meet without the seedsmen, results 
could be accomplished that would be beneficial to all. Meetings were 
therefore held to which seedsmen were not admitted. However, 
local men were contacted by the seedsmen, and arrangements made 


for commissions on any sales made, so that often several seed com- 
panies were represented in the community. In this way the variety 
question became more confused than ever, as these growers, bankers, 
and ginners were working under the guise of community interest. 

As a result the association advised the farmers of the county to 
disregard the conflicting reports and advice of cottonseed salesmen and 
cotton buyers and to give more attention to the information given out 
by the State and Federal experiment stations. 

The influence of this organization was felt throughout the county, 
with the result that the following season 17 ginners provided separate 
ginning facilities for as many groups of farmers. These communities 
had a membership of 1,500 farmers producing approximately 15.000 
bales of cotton annually. 


Trade relations brought about by one-variety production are of 
much importance in carrying on a program of this kind. The ginner 
is usually the first business man to be affected, and when he has been 
convinced of the advantages to be gained from one-variety production 
he is usually willing to cooperate to the fullest extent in seeing it 

Ginners of the same community are frequently induced to promote 
different varieties on the assumption that it will increase their patron- 
age. A prominent ginner in one of the Collin County communities 
was induced by a seed salesman to promote a new and untested strain 
of cotton. The salesman placed large advertisements in the local 
papers telling of the wonders of this new strain and grossly mis- 
represented the cotton. Several carloads of the new seed were sold 
in the community, even though the farmers had selected and were 
trying to standardize on another variety. The breeder of the new 
stock probably suffered a loss in order to introduce his seed in this 
particular' community, since the seed was extensively advertised and 
was sold at a reduced price. Fortunately for the community, this 
untested strain failed the first year, and the experience actually helped 
to unite the farmers more solidly on the original variety. 

Many ginners oppose the introduction of better staple varieties and 
foster the shorter staple varieties that gin easier and are reputed to 
clean better. This is not altogether the fault of the ginners them- 
selves, for high lint percentage, rather than acre yield or length of 
staple, has been the chief concern of the grower, and unless the ginner 
could give him a high gin turn-out he was dissatisfied. This has 
caused many ginners to promote varieties possessing this character, 
even though they may be interested in improvements in the quality 
of the crop through the planting of better varieties. 


Leading growers learned that the better fiber produced in their one- 
variety communities was being sold to manufacturers at substantial 
premiums and that buyers from cotton nulls were visiting the market 
at McKinney regularly to obtain this good cotton. 

The local buyers began to pay a higher basis price for cotton at 
McKinney, as compared with the price at neighboring points, but 
with no definite recognition of the superior quality that the growers of 


one-variety cotton were producing. Difficulty then arose because 
the higher prices paid at McKinney soon attracted farmers from other 
communities, who soon were hauling considerable quantities of inferior 
cotton to McKinney, in order to take advantage of the higher prices 
being paid there. One farmer was known to have hauled 48 bales of 
cotton 150 miles by truck and to have sold it for $5 per bale net above 
what he was offered on his local market. Thousands of bales were 
hauled from other communities, as indicated by a gradual rise in local 
receipts at the McKinney compress: 22,855 bales were received from a 
91,444-bale crop in 1925 and 27,354 bales from a 73,322 bale crop in 
1928, or 25 percent of the 1925 crop and 37 percent of the 1928 crop. 
After 1928, one-variety production was practically discontinued, and 
the high-point basis enjoyed by McKinney was soon lost, as shown by 
the gradual decline in local compress receipts from 1929 to 1931. 
In 1929 the compress received 23,309 bales from a 71,748-bale crop, 
or 33 percent, and in 1931 it received 23,369 out of a 102,000-bale 
crop, or 22 percent. 

The leading growers of Collin County, foreseeing the results of 
bringing in the poor cotton from other districts, attempted to develop 
an inexpensive system of separate marketing of good fiber that would 
reward each grower for the quality of cotton produced. They 
undertook to assemble one-variety cotton in 100-bale lots and sell on 
a staple basis. Unfortunately, this effort was made during the rapidly 
declining market of 1926-27, and the association was never able to 
get a pool of 100 bales together. This plan was abandoned without 
having had a fair test, but the interest of the growers was not lessened 
by the failure, and a committee was appointed to study the marketing 
problem. As a result of this study, the Texas Cotton Cooperative 
Association was requested to form a separate pool for one-variety 
cotton when it could be assembled in commercial lots, but this was 
deemed impractical by the association at that time. 

The committee then conferred with officials of the Texas Cotton 
Association, a trade organization including the principal export firms 
of Texas and other States, and also with members of the Dallas, 
Houston, and Waco cotton exchanges, in an effort to develop a 
workable plan. Arrangements were finally made with a broker to 
act as salesman for the community association, with an understanding 
that the broker continue his private business until the association 
members produced enough cotton to require his exclusive services, 
when outside business was to be discontinued. This program proved 
highly satisfactory to those patronizing it. One hundred and sixty 
farmers sold through the association broker and were satisfied without 
exception. The farmers estimated that they had received an average 
of $5 per bale above the best price obtainable on local markets. 
However, the program was vigorously opposed by local cotton interests 
and was finally broken up. 

Many farmers were obligated to business institutions and individuals 
who objected to their shipping cotton through the association. 
Many of the business men had been led to believe, by local buyers, 
that selling all the good cotton through a broker would destroy 
Mc Kinney's basis. It was difficult, however, for the farmers in this 
association to believe that the efforts of the business men to keep them 
from selling their cotton through the community association on 
staple merits were sincere. Several members of the association tried 


selling cotton of untenderable length through the broker and found 
that it would bring more on the local market than on the central 
market. One farmer offered a half-and-half bale on the local market, 
but sold it through the association broker the same day for $4 less 
than he was offered on the local market. This same farmer had a 
bale of 1-inch cotton that the broker sold for $3 more than the local 
market would pay. The association sales indicated clearly that a 
farmer could sell short-staple cotton on the local market above 
central market price but that he was penalized on the better cotton. 

One of the association members was called to his bank and advised 
to discontinue shipping his cotton. He was depending on the bank 
for financing, and, although he estimated that he was profiting $5 
per bale by selling through the association, he felt that he must 
discontinue selling in this manner because of the attitude of the 
banker. The banker tried to justify his action by claiming that the 
customer was taking a chance of losing his cotton, but the farmer 
knew that the salesman was under bond and that his cotton was 
absolutely safe. 

The activities of the community association caused cotton to sell 
on its merits to a greater extent than ever before. Buyers would pay 
all that the good cotton was worth, in order to keep it from being 
sold through the association. Farmers outside of the organization 
used it to advantage in " prying" the market. They frequently 
obtained higher prices by threatening to ship through the association. 

Where a one-variety program is successful, it probably will attract 
trade from other communities. This will cause friction unless the 
project covers a large area. Such a condition was well illustrated at 
MeKinney. As previously stated, that town was transformed from 
a low-point market to one of the best in the State by virtue of its 
lead in this movement. Some transportation lines and towns in 
adjoining counties, feeling the effect of the sudden influx of cotton to 
MeKinney, complained; others took the constructive view and under- 
took to build a market equal or superior to that in MeKinney by 
standardizing production of a superior strain of cotton in their own 
community. Where this was accomplished, spreads of $2 per bale 
in favor of MeKinney were wiped out, and many of the towns that 
were losing trade to that market in 1929 have been able to recover 
the loss. 


Leadership in the Collin County one-variety project was centered 
around the county agent to an extent that undoubtedly weakened 
the undertaking. Although the practical possibilities of improvement 
had been demonstrated, the farmers did not obtain the advantages 
that were necessary to maintain the project. A wide interest had 
developed among the farmers, as shown by the large attendance at 
annual meetings and the number of communities participating in the 
one-variety program, but it appeared in the end that a larger element 
of local leadership was necessary in order to reach practical solutions 
of the marketing problems. 

To people who did not appreciate the need of community coopera- 
tion in the improvement of the crop, it appeared that the county 
agent's activities were not on normal lines. Motives of personal 
interest were imputed, and mistaken inferences were drawn to break 


down the influence of the agent, even to spreading the report that he 
was getting paid to promote the particular variety that the community 
had selected. Although more than 90 percent of the crop income of 
Collin County was from cotton, and the agent had spent less than 
10 percent of his official time on the cotton project, he was criticized 
for devoting too much time to this phase of his work. 

When the community effort had developed to the point where it 
appeared that better prices for the cotton could be obtained in other 
markets than the local buyers were willing to pay, active opposition 
arose to what was considered as interference with the business of 
individuals and firms interested in buying cotton locally and in selling 
outside seed to the farmers. It was argued that the community 
cotton should be sold locally, as in the past. The buyers did not 
appreciate the need of paying suitable premiums to encourage the 
progressive farmers who were attempting to establish a regular pro- 
duction of better cotton in the county. They rested on the usual 
assumption that farmers should be satisfied with a slight advance in 
basis price for the local market as a whole, instead of trying to get 
the market value of their improved fiber. The commercial opposition 
to the community undertaking resulted in a withdrawal by the 
county commissioners of the regular support of the county agent's 
work. Sufficient local interest was shown in the one-variety program 
for the deficit to be made up by public subscription, but this arrange- 
ment placed the work on an undesirable footing, and the agent 
later resigned. 

A new agent was appointed, and county funds were again made 
available, but the one-variety work was omitted from the official 
program. The community undertaking had continued for 6 years 
and was recognized in many quarters as a notable success, but it was 
not continued. If the growers in the various communities had as- 
sumed more active leadership themselves, other adjustments of the 
marketing problem might have been worked out, and the improve- 
ment undertaking might not have lapsed so completely with the 
change in county agents. 

The teaching of experience in this undertaking, and in others of 
similar nature, is that community improvements of production need 
to rest definitely on a basis of local interest and activity by the 
farmers themselves. County agents or other officials may give 
valuable assistance in the early stages of development of community 
projects, but the initiative and management of such undertakings 
should remain with the actual producers of cotton. If outside agencies 
are relied upon, there is serious danger that a state of passive indif- 
ference will be reached. Very likely the farmers will not attain a suffi- 
cient understanding of their community interests and responsibilities 
to work out and apply the successive measures of improvement 
which are made possible after the one-variety conditions of production 
are established. Since the local interest and leadership must deter- 
mine the nature and extent of the development that is possible, these 
factors must be considered as first essentials in any community 

The project of organizing the entire county as a one-variety com- 
munity may have been premature. The development of a limited 
district at first might have resulted in greater local interest and 
initiative on the part of the farmers, and a more gradual adjustment 


of the commercial interests to the system of improved production 
might have been possible. The need of changing the buying system 
in order to make possible a permanent improvement of production 
is becoming more generally understood, not only by cooperative- 
marketing organizations but also by the more progressive commercial 
interests. The discouragement of the one-variety effort in Collin 
County was soon recognized locally as a short-sighted policy, even 
from the commercial standpoint. The loss of potential value that 
would have accrued from the growing of better cotton merely by 
giving attention to the pure-seed problem, with scarcely any increase 
in labor or other costs of production, could be estimated conserva- 
tively in hundreds of thousands of dollars. 


The farmers of Collin County, Tex., recognizing that a large 
expenditure for pure seed was bringing no returns on account of the 
multiplicity of varieties grown, embarked upon a one-variety program 
in 1923. Disregarding the often extravagant claims of seedsmen, 
they attempted to find out the facts about varieties for themselves 
by making variety tests at several localities in the county. A good 
variety was selected, growers' associations were organized, and a large 
measure of success attended the undertaking. The first effect was 
a substantial increase in prices in the local "hog round'' market. 
But the increased prices attracted inferior cotton from other districts, 
and the local growers soon realized that they would have to arrange 
to sell then cotton on its merits. Efforts to do this locally were unsuc- 
cessful and the growers had to go to a broker outside their community 
to accomplish this end. The movement broke down at this point 
through the active opposition of business interests to a change of the 
local marketing system. 

The one-variety movement was carried far enough to demonstrate 
its advantages, and the farmers of Collin County still have confidence 
in the one-variety plan of production. With an adequate supply of 
good seed at a reasonable price and freedom from outside interference, 
it is believed that standardizing the coimty on a one-variety basis 
could be easily accomplished. 


Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace. 

Assistant Secretary Rexford G. Tug well. 

Director of Scientific Work A. F. Woods. 

Director of Extension Work C. W. Warburton. 

Director of Personnel and Business Adminis- W. W. Stockberger. 

Director of Information M. S. Eisenhower. 

Solicitor Seth Thomas. 

Bureau of Agricultural Economics Nils A. Olsen, Chief. 

Bureau of Agricultural Engineering S. H. McCrory, Chief. 

Bureau of Animal Industry John R. M ohler, Chief. 

Bureau of Biological Survey Paul G. Redington, Chief. 

Bureau of Chemistry and Soils H. G. Knight, Chief. 

Office of Cooperative Extension Work C. B. Smith, Chief. 

Bureau of Dairy Industry O. E. Reed, Chief. 

Bureau of Entomology Lee A. Strong, Chief. 

Office of Experiment Stations James T. Jardine, Chief. 

Food and Drug Administration Walter G. Campbell, Chief. 

Forest Service Ferdinand A. Silcox, Chief. 

Grain Futures Administration J. W. T. Duvel, Chief. 

Bureau of Home Economics Louise Stanley, Chief. 

Library Claribel R. Barnett, Librarian. 

Bureau of Plant Industry William A. Taylor, Chief. 

Bureau of Plant Quarantine A. S. Hoyt, Acting Chief. 

Bureau of Public Roads Thomas H. MacDonald, Chief. 

Weather Bureau Charles F. Marvin, Chief. 

Agricultural Adjustment Administration George N. Peek ; Administrator. 

This circular is a contribution from 

Bureau of Plant Industry William A. Taylor, Chief. 

Division of Cotton, Rubber, and Other O. F. Cook, Principal Botanist, in 

Tropical Plants. Charge. 

t 11 


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents. Washington, D.C. ------- Price 5 cents